Energy Musings, as the Vote Goes Down…and So Does Coal?

By November 2, 2008Energy, Global Warming

Spreading around the conservative blogosphere today is the tape and transcript of a conversation Senator Barack Obama had with the San Francisco Chronicle on January 17, 2008. From (which does the bolding):

What I’ve said is that we would put a cap and trade system in place that is as aggressive, if not more aggressive, than anybody else’s out there.

I was the first to call for a 100% auction on the cap and trade system, which means that every unit of carbon or greenhouse gases emitted would be charged to the polluter. That will create a market in which whatever technologies are out there that are being presented, whatever power plants that are being built, that they would have to meet the rigors of that market and the ratcheted down caps that are being placed, imposed every year.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.

That will also generate billions of dollars that we can invest in solar, wind, biodiesel and other alternative energy approaches.

The only thing I’ve said with respect to coal, I haven’t been some coal booster. What I have said is that for us to take coal off the table as a (sic) ideological matter as opposed to saying if technology allows us to use coal in a clean way, we should pursue it.

So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can.

It’s just that it will bankrupt them.

Newsbusters notes that the Chronicle reporter and editors did not deem the Senator’s remarks worth a story in January. Now, everyone makes mistakes, and sometimes media outlets simply miss a story.  We can see how you might overlook a policy statement to the effect that coal, which provides about half of U.S. electricity, will have no role in the economic country’s future.

But after Sen. Biden’s comments condemning clean coal, wouldn’t Senator Obama’s remarks have regained news value?

Huh. Just really hard to understand the failure to report this.

UPDATE: A San Francisco Chronicle headline, October 21: “Candidates’ energy plans like peas in a pod

Well, that’s just not true, is it? As the Chronicle’s own interviews aptly demonstrate.


Join the discussion 3 Comments

  • david foster says:

    Jonathan…Obama explicitly stated that under his plan, the price of electricity would “skyrocket.”

  • Jonathan Byron says:

    The people that are wound up about what Obama said obviously do not understand the idea of cap and trade systems. Such a system would make it near impossible to expand coal beyond the current levels (about half of electricity). It would not close down existing power plants or bankrupt the entire coal industry.

    Cap and trade systems were devised by (mainstream and conservative) economists who think it would be better to use economic forces and markets to gradually bring about changes, rather than use command and control government regulations.

    In a coal cap and trade system, existing users (power plants and industry) would be given coal use credits based on how much they are using now. Those credits could be sold or transferred. If someone absolutely had to use coal for a new power use, they would have to go out and obtain credits from someone else that had them. If a coal plant somewhere converted to something that was carbon free (nuclear, wind, solar, geothermal, etc), then they would be in a position to sell the credits that they had been using for the coal plant. Selling them would help fund the conversion to less polluting sources of energy.

    These type of last minute alarmist warnings are rather boring – especially when they are based on distortions. Obama would cap coal use at current levels, not close down the entire industry.

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